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john davies
notes from a small vicar
from a parish
in Liverpool, UK

    Friday, September 27, 2002
    Telling it like it is??
    The only visitors to the church this afternoon were people searching for old family gravestones, and stonemasons asking for water. Gave me a chance to finish the first chapter of Iain Sinclair 's Lights Out for the Territory, a tour through the London which doesn't generally get written about. Plenty of old churchyards on his 'V' from Hackney to Greenwich Hill and back along the River Lea to Chingford Mount. Part of his intention was to record the graffitti along the way, the mundane, the profane, and the insane - all signs of the twilight sort of life he relishes describing. The continuation, he says, of a city's argument with itself. Dark, sometimes difficult, but well-described and perceptive stuff.

    Not unlike the work of The Caravan Gallery who I visited outside the Walker Art Gallery a couple of weeks ago. Artists Jan Williams and Chris Teasdale run it, and describe it as a mobile exhibition space in a specially adapted caravan (circa 1969), small and mustard on the outside, white walls and beech floor on the inside (like a 'real' gallery). The Caravan Gallery provides a unique setting for drawings, photographs and custom made postcards documenting the reality and surreality of life in 21st century Britain.

    So their Liverpool postcards include 'Cool Liverpool', four shots of urban barber's shopfronts including Speke Hairport, Terry's Gent's Hairdressing (with smashed window and sign saying Business as usual), and the classic Slapheads Barber Shop; and 'Liverpool - Bin there, done that!', four shots of the city's notorious bright purple wheelie bins.

    This is slice-of-life stuff with humour about it and is well-recieved in corners of the art world such as [A-N] magazine. Obviously not always quite so well-recieved by locals who naturally don't see their back entries as being fit subjects for picture postcards. To their credit the artists make themselves accountable by staffing the caravan and meeting the public, and indeed go further with The Caravan Gallery Surveys where visitors contribute to amazing statistics about British life such as:

    99% of people surveyed would rather die than arrange a pre-paid funeral
    17% of people surveyed have won meat in a raffle
    30% of people surveyed have seen their parents naked
    18% of people surveyed avoid their neighbours when out shopping
    57% of people surveyed manage to kill house plants without even trying
    Alan Titchmarsh is loved and loathed in equal measure.